French Rafale jets launched an assault against Royal Navy flagship HMS Albion as her task group passed the Brittany peninsula to allow French pilots to practise their anti-ship tactics and the Royal Navy to practice defending against air attack.
According to the Royal Navy in a news release, Albion is leading the Littoral Response Group (Experimentation) deployment, comprising destroyer HMS Dragon, amphibious support ship RFA Lyme Bay and elements of 3 Commando Brigade.
“The ships are on a three-month deployment to the Mediterranean to test the concepts, equipment and practicalities of the Future Commando Force, as well as conducting traditional exercises and operations with NATO and other allies and partners in the region. Passing Brittany brought the group well within range of the Rafales, based at Landivisiau Naval Air Station near Brest when they’re not embarked as the striking power of France’s flagship, carrier FS Charles de Gaulle.
And lifting off from Lann-Bihoué air base on the outskirts of Lorient was an E-2 Hawkeye airborne early-warning and control aircraft, which spent a few hours looking for the naval group. When the Hawkeye’s crew located the shipping, they directed the Rafales in to make their attack runs, coming in with the sun at their backs – a classic fighter tactic. As the aircraft were detected, Albion’s Combined Operations Room burst into a flurry of controlled activity. Systems hummed and headsets buzzed as sailors responded to the growing threat.
In theory Dragon and her Sea Viper missiles should take out incoming jets – or any rockets they fire – at long range. Should that fail, the task group has numerous automated Phalanx Gatling guns which spew out a supposedly-impenetrable wall of lead up to around one kilometre from each ship, decoys and, as a last resort, hand-operated machine-guns and SA80 rifles. Both sides were able to test their attacking and defensive tactics and manoeuvres during the successive waves of raids.”
More than 1,000 sailors and Royal Marines are sailing to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea aboard amphibious assault ship HMS Albion, destroyer HMS Dragon and amphibious support ship RFA Lyme Bay.
The Royal Navy say that while deployed the ships will test the new and experimental Littoral Response Group concept (which replaces the UK’s long-standing Amphibious Task Group) and shape the Future Commando Force and evolution of the Royal Marines into a hi-tech raiding and strike force.
You can read more about the deployment of HMS Albion and her task group here.